Broad Left Blogging

Icon

Taking a broader perspective…

Don’t let the real vandals get away with it….

Simon Childs is a member of the Green Party and as well as writing on his own blog regularly contributes to Newcastle University newspaper, The Courier. He also founded and edits the left-wing Newcastle newsletter; The Grey Matter.

Students on the NUS demo on the 10th September were supposed to march straight past 30 Millbank, the national offices of the Conservative Party. However, the occupation of the building by hundreds of students and the demonstrations in support in the courtyard outside were enough to divert the attention, and the footsteps of many marchers, much to the chagrin of the demo’s stewards, largely hopeless in the face of curiosity (what do we students have if not curious minds?).

What the curious were greeted with in the courtyard varied from a carnival atmosphere to scenes of violence, depending what the precise situation was at the time.

Perhaps a hundred students had originally stormed past the beleaguered police into the building. Slowly but surely, more protesters broke through the quickly strengthened police line, smashed the glass facade and entered the building. Meanwhile others noisily demonstrated in solidarity with the occupiers.

Unsurprisingly, the mainstream media has focused largely on the violence (9 UK newspapers the next day using the same photo on their front page of a demonstrator kicking a window through), in a way reminiscent of their coverage of the violence at the G20 protests.

I was present at the G20 demos and condemned the violence there, believing it to be the reckless actions of a minority and out of keeping with the spirit of the protest. I cannot denounce what happened in London last week in the same way.

While at the G20, the crowd looked on uneasy at the violent actions of the few, at Millbank people cheered as the windows were smashed and applauded the occupiers. Effigies of David Cameron and Nick Clegg were burned. Barely a second went by without an anti-Tory or anti-Lib Dem chant.

Also, it was not just attended by the ‘usual suspects – from what I could tell, most of the students there were simply angry students, not seasoned revolutionaries.

Whatever may be said of what happened, it was a real manifestation of the outrage felt by many at a government of millionaires callously wrecking ordinary young peoples’ future life chances.

Having said that, in a march of 50,000, the Millbank protesters clearly were in a minority, and many students will feel that their actions undermined the anti-cuts message of the day. I can understand their point of view.

Aaron Porter, president of NUS condemned the violence as “despicable”. Personally, I would reserve that word for the Tory/Lib Dem government who are happy to consign any semblance of state funded education we had left to the dustbin of history.

If only the NUS had been so uncompromising in its criticism of tuition fees when they were introduced by Labour in 1998, or when they were raised in 2006, as they have against the protesters, we would not be in the position we are in today.

Right or wrong, the insurrection at Millbank shows that you can only push people so far. If you disenfranchise people and vandalise their rights, they’ll vandalise your property. It might not be big, and it might not be clever, but criticism should be leveled first and foremost at the government, not at those standing up to them.

Advertisements

Filed under: Activism, Law and Order, , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The Arrow of Progress

%d bloggers like this: